NEW MANCHESTER, W.Va.-Students' after-game plans and a fire department's attempt to get to a reported chimney fire came to a deadly collision on state Route 8 Saturday night, taking the lives of three Hancock County teenagers.
The "horrific" accident resulted in the deaths of Kristyn Butcher, 16, of Newell, W.Va.; Kaylin Rice, 16, of Chester, W.Va.; and John Emmett Snow III, 16, of New Cumberland, W.Va., Hancock County Sheriff Ralph Fletcher said.
Butcher and Rice were pronounced dead at the scene, while Snow succumbed to his injuries after being transported to East Liverpool City Hospital, Fletcher said.
Butcher and Rice were juniors at Oak Glen High School, and Snow was a sophomore. "It's a terrible, terrible tragedy, and our school community is just devastated by it," Hancock County Schools Superintendent Suzan Smith said.
Smith struggled to find the right words to express her feelings. "I just can't imagine how the families-it just has to be devastating for them. I just can't imagine what they're going through."
"Our young people-their lives are so full and happy, and it's just hard to understand why they're taken from us," Smith said.
"It's a very sad day for Oak Glen," Athletic Director Phil Rujak said. "We're all kind of reeling from this. You never want to have to deal with something like this."
The crash occurred at 9 p.m. Saturday near the Route 8 entrance to Tomlinson Run State Park, shortly after the New Manchester Volunteer Fire Department had received a report of a chimney fire, the sheriff's department said. The pumper truck, with six firefighters aboard, had just left the station and was northbound on Route 8 when it was struck by the southbound car driven by Butcher, Fletcher said.
Butcher reportedly pulled into the northbound lane in an attempt to pass another vehicle and then unsuccessfully tried to pull back into the southbound lane, Fletcher said, citing witness statements and crash scene evidence.
"We don't believe road conditions had anything to do with it. At that time, there wasn't any precipitation," Fletcher said.
Three of the six New Manchester volunteer firefighters were taken to Weirton Medical Center for injuries suffered in the accident. They were treated and released, Fletcher said.
Route 8 was closed for several hours as the sheriff's department conducted its investigation, with help from the West Virginia State Police, New Cumberland Police Department, Hancock County Sheriff's Reserve, New Cumberland Ambulance Service, LifeTeam EMS, and the New Manchester, New Cumberland and Newell volunteer fire departments.
Fletcher said the investigation into the accident is ongoing. Asked whether the students were wearing seat belts, Fletcher said, "That's all part of the investigation."
New Manchester fire Chief Roger Stewart declined to release the names of the injured firefighters and referred all questions to the sheriff's department.
Hancock County sheriff's Deputy Chad Lamp, who responded to the accident, described the scene as "horrific. ... It was one of the worst accidents I've seen in my 13 years with the (New Manchester) fire department and my seven years with the sheriff's department.
"Our thoughts and prayers and concerns go out to the families of the three victims ... and the members of the fire department involved," said Lamp, who also is New Manchester assistant fire chief.
Lamp said the firefighters participated in a critical incident stress debriefing at the fire station Sunday afternoon. "It's basically a counseling session for everybody to be able to talk about their feelings, and just to make sure everybody's OK," he said.
Butcher's mother, Lori Butcher, was surrounded by family and friends at her Newell home Sunday afternoon as she tried to cope with the news of her daughter's death.
Through tears, Butcher described her daughter as "always happy. She always was smiling. But she didn't take crap from anybody. She was feisty that way."
Butcher said she last saw Kristyn at about 6 or 6:30 p.m. Saturday, after they had dinner. She said her daughter was going to the Oak Glen Golden Bears girls basketball game with Rice and Snow and then had plans to stay the night at a friend's house.
Butcher said Kristyn enjoyed going hunting with her father and playing basketball and volleyball at her church, Glendale Church of the Nazarene in Newell.
Amy Snow described Emmett as "an avid hunter" who also enjoyed riding his four-wheeler. "We have a farm, and that was really important to him. He helped us on the farm all the time-with the tractors, the hay and taking care of the cattle," she said.
Snow said Emmett was looking forward to seeing his sister, Alyson, play in Saturday night's home game against the Toronto Lady Red Nights. Butcher, Snow and Rice were on their way back to Emmett's house in New Cumberland at the time of the accident, she said.
According to news accounts, Rice was a softball player at Oak Glen. Her family could not be reached for comment.
Hancock County Schools are closed today because of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, but Smith said grief counselors will be available to talk to students when they return on Tuesday.
"We will do everything we can to provide support to not only our students but also our school personnel-to try to ease the terrible pain this has caused," Smith said.
News of the triple-fatality spread fast on social media sites, generating expressions of support from the St. Clair Township Police Department, St. John Central High School in Bellaire, FirefightersWorldwide.com, and other organizations.